Sept. 13, Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle B. Readings:
1) Isaiah 50:5-9a
Psalm 116:1-6, 8-9
2) James 2:14-18
Gospel: Mark 8:27-35
By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service
I’ve known Mack since he was 11 years old — that’s 44 years. He grew up in a faithful, practicing Catholic family, much younger than his four older brothers and sisters. He was a young teenager when things started unraveling at home, largely due to alcoholism in the family.
He was well on his way to being an alcoholic himself by the time he was 20. He fell in with some unsavory colleagues, was involved in a few violent encounters and quickly flunked out of college. Soon afterward, his father died and he continued a lifestyle of uneven employment, social isolation, minor arrests and alcohol abuse.
For a while, it seemed that he was trying to address his situation by periodically participating in substance abuse programs and reconnecting with family members. He also held — by the thinnest thread — to his faith.
He was hanging on to Jesus’ call, recollected in the Gospel for this week, to bear the cross life had handed him and hope in the promise that in joining his own troubles to Christ’s suffering, he also would find peace through him.
However, it later became obvious that alcoholism was at the root of his problems, as Mack grew increasingly isolated. Lately, it appears that he has accepted a life of constant hardship — remaining homeless, barely employed and alcoholic.
But he has let go of his faith.
He continues to pick up his cross, but he no longer holds to the second part of Jesus’ exhortation — to follow him.
It’s the second part that makes all the difference. Peter didn’t get it either when Jesus said that he’d have to suffer. But Jesus explained further that, yes, everyone has suffering, but if you “follow me” through your suffering, you’ll also follow him to resurrection. That means one must cling to the life of Christ, being centered on goodness and trust in God, all the way to resurrection. Not easy in the middle of serious strife.
Mack’s friends and family hope that he will reach out again for that thin thread of faith in Christ that once held him. They hope he will find the right direction in which to follow Jesus while carrying his cross through to resurrection.
How do you go about following Christ when you are struggling or suffering? How does that affect you in such situations?